2013 has been quite a year for gaming, hasn“t it? Two new consoles made their debut and without any excellent system sellers. On the other hand, games considered to be huge deals launched on PS3, 360, and PC. Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, and Tomb Raider were just some of the incredibly notable releases. And yet, though I played most of those, none managed to thrill me. Maybe it is due to simply feeling a little too familiar?
In any case, without intending for it to be the case, my favorite games of the year were almost entirely independently produced. Here are the ten games I enjoyed the most this year in alphabetical (and unranked) order.
7 Grand Steps
So, board games aren“t really my thing. As such, I should have had no interest in 7 Grand Steps which in many ways emulates one. In the game you usher a family line from the earliest human ancestors through a handful of ages. This is all controlled by a board game-like interface where your family is represented by tokens moving across a board. However, in being a video game there are flourishes that make it truly special. For some reason, I grew really attached to my fictional family line and tried to keep them living and grow into powerful positions. It was a lot of fun, and I“m looking forward to a continuation.
Being a lifelong point-and-click adventure game fan, practically any new game utilizing the style finds its way into my hands. Gone Home might be a modern interpretation of an adventure game, but it still is one. In any case, that“s the main reason I jumped on board. What made me stick around were the little touches to be found within this deserted home. I wanted to know the full story - not just of where the family had gone but what lives they led. I was excited, sometimes frightened, and could very much relate to some of the events. It felt as if someone had made a game with my life experiences in mind, and that never happens.
It“s no secret that I absolutely love the work of developer Christine Love. Her visual novels are fantastic and a great example for aspiring creators to look toward. I loved Analogue: A Hate Story and its sequel Hate Plus totally delivers. In it we are given a new look at what happened on a generation ship that led to a great many tragedies. Alongside your AI companion, you gain new insight about the politics, societal roles, and the characters who lived out their lives on the ship. Practically all action is text-based, but the writing is so fantastic that you“re able to get just as wrapped up in the story as any other game. That takes serious talent to make work.
I“ve been playing video games for about twenty years now and have seen a lot. Although I still love playing them, it seems that the special joy I once felt has long since dimmed. After all, games aren“t some grand mystery to me anymore! Kairo managed to rekindle the flames of awe inside me. While traveling through this puzzling adventure title, I became enamored with the scenery and world. It felt strange and unexplored. Uncovering and solving puzzles made me feel like an explorer on some uncharted planet. If only more games could offer such an awesome experience. But then, maybe that would make it less special.
I“ll admit, liking Tale of Tales“ work varies from person to person. For me, I“ve loved them since The Path came out and devoured each new title since. Although they usually take a divergent path from most games, Luxuria Superbia is perhaps their most game-like experience thus far. And yet, it“s also something more. In the game, you travel down a flower â€œtunnelâ€ and simply must make each petal glow with color. As you play, the title responds in kind and urges you onward via on-screen text. The erotic stylings were barely masked before, but these phrases make it obvious. I“ve certainly never loved a computer, but there was something about Luxuria Superbia that hypnotically drew me back long after completing the game.
If you liked Gone Home, then The Novelist should be your next gaming experience. In a sense, it is similar. You are inhabiting a home and reading the letters of individuals to observe their lives. However, you“re a ghost. As such, this provides the ability to see into the minds of the three family members staying there for a summer vacation. The father must write his next novel to please the publishers, his wife fears an impending divorce, and their young son is bullied and feels distanced from his own father. You make the choices for the family and determine who ends up happy, or sad. Gamers often wield massive power, but in very different situations. Have you ever been able to push someone toward divorce or a mental breakdown? It“s not a good feeling and The Novelist captures these moments skillfully.
Platformers with pixelated graphics are all over the place these days. So too are roguelikes, which suddenly have come back in fashion. With limited time, I rarely stick with one game since there are so many to experience. Rogue Legacy managed to keep my attention and have me come back to play on a regular basis. As I search the randomly generated levels and die again and again, something just keeps calling me back in. It“s fun to struggle through tough rooms. Being able to select descendants with special traits (and an overarching leveling system) make it worth continued play. Rogue Legacy is too ridiculously fun to put down.
Music games have gone through a few fads over the years and I“ve enjoyed each one. However, perhaps the most interesting music games are only beginning to come out thanks to fearless developers. No longer do we require icon matching or plastic peripherals. Soundodger+ is a very simple title. As music plays, you keep your cursor moving within a circle to keep the rhythmically-moving bullets from hitting you. The soundtrack is divine but so to are the bullet patterns. They dance around the screen in beautiful fashion and the player learns to choreograph their moves in response. It practically feels like you“re dancing with the game. I really loved my experiences with Soundodger+.
Most people got a taste of SteamWorld Dig when it launched on 3DS but I only got my hands on it with the far more recent Steam release. All the same, months later, I finally realize what everyone was so enamored with this game for. It“s fun and simple! All you really have to do is dig deeper and deeper into the ground, sometimes checking out caves to find new upgrades. Find loot underground, bring it back to the surface, and you“ll get money to buy other upgrades. There“s something about the simplicity of it all that really managed to draw me in. When I would be working on something else my mind would wander to thoughts of where to search next underground and what tools I“d need to stock up on first. That“s a phenomenon that rarely happens to me anymore, and I“m set to cherish it as long as it lasts.
Dating sims are a genre that have only recently begun to see any acceptance in Western gaming culture. This is primarily due to Aksys Games bringing a few over. Unfortunately, their continual focus on the Hakuoki series worried me that they would never take another big chance again. Luckily, I was wrong, and they published Sweet Fuse - an action-filled story of a teenage girl caught up in a terrorist plot at a theme park. The bad guy is weird as heck and forces her (and five guys) to partake in strange puzzles. If they lose, they will pay with their lives. Despite all that, there“s still room for romance! It was an entertaining story filled with mostly worthwhile dateable men and we need to see more games like this made available.
Well, that's all of them! Many other titles contended for favorites but just couldn't make the cut. These were the most memorable for me in 2013 and I look forward to seeing what 2014 brings for gaming!